Most of us would agree that our world has changed dramatically in so many ways over the last few years. Here in the fall of 2022 we are diving back into school and work lives after experiencing vacations and more relaxed schedules. Change seems to be everywhere! Many of these changes were imposed on us which means we have all been forced to adapt and adjust to this new world.
Many children have experienced two years of virtual learning and/or social distancing when in school. Children had to learn how to wear masks in their classrooms and hallways. Many adults are or certainly wish they could continue working from home. There are fewer people in office settings which means fewer people going out to lunch. Those working from home may be cooking more frequently too, which in turn means the whole restaurant and food service industries have had to be creative in their business practices. Many people now have meals delivered to their homes on a regular basis. We have had to figure out whether to be vaccinated and trying to learn the social protocol for finding out who is and who is not vaccinated.
Here are some definitions to guide us in processing. Websters says that to adapt means to bring one thing into correspondence with another. It implies a modification according to changing circumstances. Synonyms include accommodate, conform and reconcile. It speaks of conforming oneself and bringing a balance between personal needs and others.
It is important to recognize that our brains do not like change. Dr. Sandra Bloom say that basically our brains are lazy and want to work on auto pilot rather than having to figure everything out. Our brains like habits that require little thinking, so they resist change.
Many of the changes we have experienced in recent years have been imposed on us whether our brains like it or not. Let’s consider what can help us reduce some of the stress associated with change. Harvard Business Review offers some suggestions:
- Find the humor in the situation. Trying to find a funny moment during an otherwise unfunny situation can be a fantastic way to create the levity needed to see a vexing problem from a new perspective. It can help others feel better as well.
- Talk about problems more than feelings. One of the most common myths of coping with unwanted changes is the idea that we can “work through” our anger, fears, and frustrations by talking about them a lot. This isn’t always the case. In fact, research shows that actively and repeatedly broadcasting negative emotions hinders our natural adaptation processes.
- Don’t stress out about stressing out. Our beliefs about stress matter. As Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal argues in The Upside of Stress, your reaction to stress has a greater impact on your health and success than the stress itself. If you believe stress kills you, it will. If you believe stress is trying to carry you over a big obstacle or through a challenging situation, you’ll become more resilient and may even live longer.
- Focus on your values instead of your fears. Reminding ourselves of what’s important to us — family, friends, religious convictions, scientific achievement, great music, or creative expression, can create a surprisingly powerful buffer against our perceiving troubles.
- Accept the past but fight for the future. Even though we are never free from change, we are always free to decide how we respond to it… If we fixate on the limitations of a specific change, we inevitably succumb to worry, bitterness, and despair. Instead, we should choose to accept the fact that change happens and then decide what to do next.
- Don’t expect stability. Adaptive leaders chose to view all changes, whether wanted or unwanted, as an expected part of the human experience, rather than as a tragic anomaly that victimizes unlucky people. Instead of feeling personally attacked, they remain engaged in their work and spot opportunities to fix long-standing problems.
Further this article states that in a series of studies over more than a decade, researchers Geoffrey Cohen and David Sherman have shown how people of all ages in a range of circumstances, can strengthen their minds with a simple exercise: spending 10 minutes writing about a time when a particular value they held positively affected them.
A few specific recommendations for helping children adapt and adjust from Primrose Schools includes:
- Be extra patient. It’s important to remember that a child’s developmental needs and capacity to accept change are much different than an adult’s
- If possible, prepare your child for the change to come, explaining what will soon be different, using age-appropriate language and simple, concrete examples.
- Reassure your child of what will be familiar.
- Remember that regressive behavior is normal during times of change.
- Maintain routines as much as possible.
Simply acknowledging that most of us are experiencing many changes in our lives – requiring adjustment, adaptation, and acknowledgment of the increased stress – can help us in the coming days. Being mindful of ways to support each other, promoting a sense that were all in this together, can also help. Since the beginning of time human beings have had to learn how to adapt and adjust. Like our ancestors, we can survive and hopefully thrive from these experiences.
Invitation for Reflection
- What are some of the specific changes that have occurred in your life these last two years? How have you coped with them?
- What are some ways you can see the positives in the changes imposed on you?
- How can you help your family members, friends and colleagues as they experience the many fast changes happening in the world today?
Diane Wagenhals, Director, Lakeside Global Institute